Indigenous people have suffered the worst impacts of climate change, despite contributing the least to world greenhouse gas emissions.
According to organizers of a United Nations University co-hosted meeting in Darwin, Australia, indigenous people have also suffered from some of the international mitigation measures being taken.
AdvertisementSome of the impacts of climate change on indigenous people worldwide include:
In tropical and sub-tropical areas, an increase in diseases associated with higher temperatures and vector-borne and water-borne diseases like cholera, malaria and dengue fever;
Worsening drought conditions and desertification, leading to more forest fires that disrupt subsistence agriculture, hunting and gathering livelihoods, as well as serious biodiversity loss;
Distinct changes in the seasonal appearance of birds, the blooming of flowers, etc. These now occur earlier or are decoupled from the customary season or weather patterns;
In arid and semi-arid lands: excessive rainfall and prolonged droughts, resulting in dust storms that damage grasslands, seedlings, other crops and livestock;
In the Arctic, stronger waves, thawing permafrost and melting mountain glaciers and sea-ice, bringing coastal and riverbank erosion;
Smaller animal populations and the introduction of new marine species due to changing animal travel and migration routes;
In Boreal Forests, new types of insects and longer-living endemic insects (e.g. spruce beetles) that destroy trees and other vegetation;
In coastal regions and small-island states, erosion, stronger hurricanes and typhoons, leading to the loss of freshwater supplies, land, mangrove forests and dislocation (environmental refugees);
Increasing food insecurity due to declining fish populations and coral bleaching;
Crop damaging pest infestations (e.g. locusts, rats, spruce beetles, etc.), and increasing food costs due to competition with the demand for biofuels;
Extreme and unprecedented cold spells resulting in health problems (e.g. hypothermia, bronchitis, and pneumonia, especially for the old and young).
As well, indigenous people point to an increase in human rights violations, displacements and conflicts due to expropriation of ancestral lands and forests for biofuel plantations (soya, sugar-cane, jatropha, oil-palm, corn, etc.), as well as for carbon sink and renewable energy projects (hydropower dams, geothermal plants), without the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous people.
Specific instances of indigenous people being harmed by climate change mitigation measures include the case of such people in Malaysia and Indonesia, who have been uprooted by the aggressive expansion of oil palm plantations for biofuel production.
Likewise, nuclear waste sites and hydroelectric dam-building displace indigenous peoples from their ancestral territories.
According to UNU-IAS Director A.H. Zakri, "They have not benefited, in any significant manner, from climate change-related funding, whether for adaptation and mitigation, nor from emissions trading schemes."
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